NASA re-established contact with the international space station Feb. 19 nearly three hours after an equipment failure left the orbiting laboratory without a direct link to mission control, U.S. space agency officials said.
Space station flight controllers at NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston restored contact with the space station at 12:34 p.m. EST, according to an update. NASA lost communication with the space station at 9:45 a.m. EST.
“Flight controllers were in the process of updating the station’s command and control software and were transitioning from the primary computer to the backup computer to complete the software load when the loss of communication occurred,” NASA officials said in a statement.
A main data relay system malfunctioned and the computer that controls the station’s critical functions switched to a backup, NASA officials said in a statement. However, the station still was unable to communicate with the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite network that serves as the outpost’s link to NASA’s Mission Control Center on the ground.
The communications loss occurred as flight controllers were sending a software update to the space station. The space station is currently home to three Russians, two Americans and a Canadian astronaut.
NASA flight controllers were able to communicate with the spacefliers aboard the space station through a backup system before primary lines of communication were re-established.
“Mission Control Houston was able to communicate with the crew as the space station flew over Russian ground stations before 11:00 a.m. EST and instructed the crew to connect a backup computer to begin the process of restoring communications,” NASA officials said.
When Mission Control made contact with the international space station via Russian ground stations, Expedition 34 commander Kevin Ford reported on the health and status of the space station and its residents.
“Hey, just FYI, the station’s still fine and straight, everybody is in good shape of course,” said Ford in audio released by NASA. “And nothing unexpected other than lots of caution warning tones, and of course we have no system in sight. We’ll get that back to you as soon as we can.”
This is not the first time Mission Control has lost direct communication with the orbiting science laboratory. In 2010, the space station briefly lost communication with the ground when a primary computer failed and the backup had to take over. Communications were out for about one hour before NASA restored the connection.